Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Monsoon


The antiquity and decline of the Bronze Age Harappan civilization in the Indus-Ghaggar-Hakra river valleys is an enigma in archaeology. Weakening of the monsoon after ~5 ka BP (and droughts throughout the Asia) is a strong contender for the Harappan collapse, although controversy exists about the synchroneity of climate change and collapse of civilization. One reason for this controversy is lack of a continuous record of cultural levels and palaeomonsoon change in close proximity. We report a high resolution oxygen isotope (δ(18)O) record of animal teeth-bone phosphates from an archaeological trench itself at Bhirrana, NW India, preserving all cultural levels of this civilization. Bhirrana was part of a high concentration of settlements along the dried up mythical Vedic river valley ‘Saraswati’, an extension of Ghaggar river in the Thar desert. Isotope and archaeological data suggest that the pre-Harappans started inhabiting this area along the mighty Ghaggar-Hakra rivers fed by intensified monsoon from 9 to 7 ka BP. The monsoon monotonically declined after 7 ka yet the settlements continued to survive from early to mature Harappan time. Our study suggests that other cause like change in subsistence strategy by shifting crop patterns rather than climate change was responsible for Harappan collapse.

Concepts: India, Tin, Monsoon, Archaeology, Bronze Age, Indus Valley Civilization, Harappa, Thar Desert


The modern Asian monsoonal systems are currently believed to have originated around the end of the Oligocene following a crucial step of uplift of the Tibetan-Himalayan highlands. Although monsoon possibly drove the evolution of many mammal lineages during the Neogene, no evidence thereof has been provided so far. We examined the evolutionary history of a clade of rodents, the Rhizomyinae, in conjunction with our current knowledge of monsoon fluctuations over time. The macroevolutionary dynamics of rhizomyines were analyzed within a well-constrained phylogenetic framework coupled with biogeographic and evolutionary rate studies. The evolutionary novelties developed by these rodents were surveyed in parallel with the fluctuations of the Indian monsoon so as to evaluate synchroneity and postulate causal relationships. We showed the existence of three drops in biodiversity during the evolution of rhizomyines, all of which reflected elevated extinction rates. Our results demonstrated linkage of monsoon variations with the evolution and biogeography of rhizomyines. Paradoxically, the evolution of rhizomyines was accelerated during the phases of weakening of the monsoons, not of strengthening, most probably because at those intervals forest habitats declined, which triggered extinction and progressive specialization toward a burrowing existence.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Evolution, Biology, Ecology, Evolutionary biology, Extinction, Monsoon, Biogeography


Several studies have analyzed the effects of weather on factors associated with weight loss. In this study, we directly analyzed the effect of weather on intentional weight loss using global-scale data provided by smartphone applications. Through Weather Underground API and the Noom Coach application, we extracted information on weather and body weight for each user located in each of several geographic areas on all login days. We identified meteorological information (pressure, precipitation, wind speed, dew point, and temperature) and self-monitored body weight data simultaneously. A linear mixed-effects model was performed analyzing 3274 subjects. Subjects in North America had higher initial BMIs than those of subjects in Eastern Asia. During the study period, most subjects who used the smartphone application experienced weight loss in a significant way (80.39%, p-value < 0.001). Subjects who infrequently recorded information about dinner had smaller variations than those of other subjects (βfreq.users dinner*time = 0.007, p-value < 0.001). Colder temperature, lower dew point, and higher values for wind speed and precipitation were significantly associated with weight loss. In conclusion, we found a direct and independent impact of meteorological conditions on intentional weight loss efforts on a global scale (not only on a local level).

Concepts: Climate, Weather, Humidity, Meteorology, North America, Wind, Monsoon, Fog


During the “Green Sahara” period (11,000 to 5000 years before the present), the Sahara desert received high amounts of rainfall, supporting diverse vegetation, permanent lakes, and human populations. Our knowledge of rainfall rates and the spatiotemporal extent of wet conditions has suffered from a lack of continuous sedimentary records. We present a quantitative reconstruction of western Saharan precipitation derived from leaf wax isotopes in marine sediments. Our data indicate that the Green Sahara extended to 31°N and likely ended abruptly. We find evidence for a prolonged “pause” in Green Sahara conditions 8000 years ago, coincident with a temporary abandonment of occupational sites by Neolithic humans. The rainfall rates inferred from our data are best explained by strong vegetation and dust feedbacks; without these mechanisms, climate models systematically fail to reproduce the Green Sahara. This study suggests that accurate simulations of future climate change in the Sahara and Sahel will require improvements in our ability to simulate vegetation and dust feedbacks.

Concepts: Africa, Sahara, Climate, Niger, Chad, Monsoon, Sahel, Desertification


Human migration north through Africa is contentious. This paper uses a novel palaeohydrological and hydraulic modelling approach to test the hypothesis that under wetter climates c.100,000 years ago major river systems ran north across the Sahara to the Mediterranean, creating viable migration routes. We confirm that three of these now buried palaeo river systems could have been active at the key time of human migration across the Sahara. Unexpectedly, it is the most western of these three rivers, the Irharhar river, that represents the most likely route for human migration. The Irharhar river flows directly south to north, uniquely linking the mountain areas experiencing monsoon climates at these times to temperate Mediterranean environments where food and resources would have been abundant. The findings have major implications for our understanding of how humans migrated north through Africa, for the first time providing a quantitative perspective on the probabilities that these routes were viable for human habitation at these times.

Concepts: Africa, Sahara, Climate, Human migration, Monsoon, Algeria, Morocco, Libya


As climate change unfolds, weather systems in the United States have been shifting in patterns that vary across regions and seasons. Climate science research typically assesses these changes by examining individual weather indicators, such as temperature or precipitation, in isolation, and averaging their values across the spatial surface. As a result, little is known about population exposure to changes in weather and how people experience and evaluate these changes considered together. Here we show that in the United States from 1974 to 2013, the weather conditions experienced by the vast majority of the population improved. Using previous research on how weather affects local population growth to develop an index of people’s weather preferences, we find that 80% of Americans live in counties that are experiencing more pleasant weather than they did four decades ago. Virtually all Americans are now experiencing the much milder winters that they typically prefer, and these mild winters have not been offset by markedly more uncomfortable summers or other negative changes. Climate change models predict that this trend is temporary, however, because US summers will eventually warm more than winters. Under a scenario in which greenhouse gas emissions proceed at an unabated rate (Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5), we estimate that 88% of the US public will experience weather at the end of the century that is less preferable than weather in the recent past. Our results have implications for the public’s understanding of the climate change problem, which is shaped in part by experiences with local weather. Whereas weather patterns in recent decades have served as a poor source of motivation for Americans to demand a policy response to climate change, public concern may rise once people’s everyday experiences of climate change effects start to become less pleasant.

Concepts: United States, Climate, Weather, Climate change, Experience, Meteorology, Monsoon, Greenhouse gas


An annually resolved and absolutely dated ring-width chronology spanning 4,500 y has been constructed using subfossil, archaeological, and living-tree juniper samples from the northeastern Tibetan Plateau. The chronology represents changing mean annual precipitation and is most reliable after 1500 B.C. Reconstructed precipitation for this period displays a trend toward more moist conditions: the last 10-, 25-, and 50-y periods all appear to be the wettest in at least three and a half millennia. Notable historical dry periods occurred in the 4th century BCE and in the second half of the 15th century CE. The driest individual year reconstructed (since 1500 B.C.) is 1048 B.C., whereas the wettest is 2010. Precipitation variability in this region appears not to be associated with inferred changes in Asian monsoon intensity during recent millennia. The chronology displays a statistical association with the multidecadal and longer-term variability of reconstructed mean Northern Hemisphere temperatures over the last two millennia. This suggests that any further large-scale warming might be associated with even greater moisture supply in this region.

Concepts: Chronology, Precipitation, Climate, Tropical cyclone, Centuries, Monsoon, Global warming, Anno Domini


The South Asian Monson (SAM) is one of the most intense climatic elements yet its initiation and variations are not well established. Dating the deposits of SAM wind-driven currents in IODP cores from the Maldives yields an age of 12. 9 Ma indicating an abrupt SAM onset, over a short period of 300 kyrs. This coincided with the Indian Ocean Oxygen Minimum Zone expansion as revealed by geochemical tracers and the onset of upwelling reflected by the sediment’s content of particulate organic matter. A weaker ‘proto-monsoon’ existed between 12.9 and 25 Ma, as mirrored by the sedimentary signature of dust influx. Abrupt SAM initiation favors a strong influence of climate in addition to the tectonic control, and we propose that the post Miocene Climate Optimum cooling, together with increased continentalization and establishment of the bipolar ocean circulation, i.e. the beginning of the modern world, shifted the monsoon over a threshold towards the modern system.

Concepts: Climate, Weather, India, Indian subcontinent, Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka, Ocean, Monsoon


Recent research indicates that the cooling trend in the tropical Pacific Ocean over the past 15 years underlies the contemporaneous hiatus in global mean temperature increase. During the hiatus, the tropical Pacific Ocean displays a La Niña-like cooling pattern while sea surface temperature (SST) in the Indian Ocean has continued to increase. This SST pattern differs from the well-known La Niña-induced basin-wide cooling across the Indian Ocean on the interannual timescale. Here, based on model experiments, we show that the SST pattern during the hiatus explains pronounced regional anomalies of rainfall in the Asian monsoon region and thermodynamic effects due to specific humidity change are secondary. Specifically, Indo-Pacific SST anomalies cause convection to intensify over the tropical western Pacific, which in turn suppresses rainfall in mid-latitude East Asia through atmospheric teleconnection. Overall, the tropical Pacific SST effect opposes and is greater than the Indian Ocean SST effect.

Concepts: Southeast Asia, Temperature, Indian Ocean, Asia, Pacific Ocean, Ocean, Monsoon, Oceans


The Patagonian steppe-a massive rain-shadow on the lee side of the southern Andes-is assumed to have evolved ~15-12 Myr as a consequence of the southern Andean uplift. However, fossil evidence supporting this assumption is limited. Here we quantitatively estimate climatic conditions and plant richness for the interval ~10-6 Myr based on the study and bioclimatic analysis of terrestrially derived spore-pollen assemblages preserved in well-constrained Patagonian marine deposits. Our analyses indicate a mesothermal climate, with mean temperatures of the coldest quarter between 11.4 °C and 16.9 °C (presently ~3.5 °C) and annual precipitation rarely below 661 mm (presently ~200 mm). Rarefied richness reveals a significantly more diverse flora during the late Miocene than today at the same latitude but comparable with that approximately 2,000 km further northeast at mid-latitudes on the Brazilian coast. We infer that the Patagonian desertification was not solely a consequence of the Andean uplift as previously insinuated.

Concepts: Earth, Precipitation, Climate, Humidity, Atmosphere, Meteorology, Monsoon, Latitude